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Live Online Interviews: The sweet spot between chat and discussion

Tomorrow the World Bank will be hosting an online conversation with James Wolfensohn, their outgoing president. This probably doesn't strike you as very innovative or exciting. But I think the format they are using to organize "speaker" and "asker" interaction is a good one (I should, it's a service that Forum One developed and operates).

We know that offering site visitors meaningful methods of interaction has lots of benefits: it captures interesting content from users, builds user commitment, and creates valuable feedback loops for the host. But live interaction also creates a lot of worry for most organizations: brand control, malicious contributions, and the costs of administration to name a few. Live Online Interviews that follow the format the Bank is using tomorrow offer the advantages of online interaction while minimizing these risks.

The format, that we call Live Online Interviews, allows the hosting organization to present someone (perhaps a senior member of management, a high profile board member, a celebrity supporter, or a topical expert) for users to interview. While the interviews are usually "live", lasting for an hour or two, site visitors can submit questions in advance and the interviewee answers the questions she can during the time allotted. Questioners and observers can read the results online in realtime or afterwards from the archive.

Commercial organizations like the Washington Post (with its Live Online) and ESPN (with insider) have pioneered the online interview but it is a great match for mission-driven organizations as well.